Local group continues legacy of Vincentian priest

| Kristi Anderson for The Catholic Spirit | July 16, 2014 | 0 Comments
Father Joseph K. Bill

Father Joseph K. Bill

Since 2004, more than 10,000 people from across the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have experienced hope and healing through an annual six-day silent retreat created by Vincentian Father Joseph K. Bill.

Father Bill, who was born in Kerala, India, experienced his own healing in 1976, claiming Jesus touched him and healed his heart not only physically, but also spiritually. According to his legacy, he realized he needed to “cast off his old life, and that preaching the Word of God was his new and only mission.”

Rita Hanson, a parishioner at Transfiguration in Oakdale, met Father Bill in 2004 as an attendee of one of his retreats at Camp Friendship near Annandale.

“I heard the ad for the retreat on the radio,” Hanson said. “It was just after my husband was in a very serious accident and was left with a lot of problems. I wanted to go for him. To my surprise, it ended up being my life that was healed.”

Hanson now coordinates the Father Joseph K. Bill Ministry in the archdiocese. Father Bill traveled to Minnesota four years in a row until his death in 2008. Now, other members of the Vincentian Congregation based in India continue hosting annual retreats in the archdiocese, as well as all over the world.

“The outreach of this ministry is to bring the healing touch of Jesus to everyone,” Hanson explained. “The faith and preaching of the Vincentian priests is amazing. There is a richness of faith that is very different in India from America. They bring that gift with them and use it to transform lives.”

A healing experience

Cheryl Connolly, also a member of Transfiguration, believes hers was one of many lives transformed at the most recent retreat in June.

The retreat covered a variety of topics starting with the love of God, repentance, forgiveness, the body/soul connection, sacraments and the life of the Church.

Connolly said a turning point was toward the end of the retreat.

“One of the brothers got up and announced that someone had just been healed from a chronic headache, but not just any kind of headache, one that included some swelling on the left side of the brain,” Connolly said.

“I sat there in amazement,” she said. “I realized he was talking about me.”

Connolly had fallen two years ago and suffered from head pain and swelling on the left side of her brain.

“All I could do was cry,” she said. “No one there knew me or knew what I had been through. I couldn’t believe this was happening.”

Staying connected

Connolly belongs to a group that Hanson coordinates — a monthly prayer group of past attendees and others who want to stay connected with the ministry.

“Once you’ve had a life-changing event like this retreat, the question is always, ‘Now what?’” Hanson said. “So we decided to come together like the early Christians did: to meet in homes, share a meal, pray together, spend time in praise and worship and also continue our learning. It is a time to be with like-minded people, a time to grow in holiness.”

Hanson has traveled to the Divine Retreat Centre in Muringoor, India, the largest Catholic retreat center in the world, where Father Bill began his work.

“I really want people to know that hope and healing are still possible,” Hanson expressed, “that the same Jesus that walked the earth 2,000 years ago is here now and wants to heal us.”

For more information, visit http://www.frbillusa.net or the Divine Retreat Centre, Muringoor, http://www.drcm.org. Or, contact Rita Hanson at (651) 303-0532.

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Category: Local News